The Glass Is Half Empty: Pessimism In Wrestling
October 5, 2005 by Ryan Turner
I want to start this column by saying, I am a wrestling fan. I love everything about wrestling. This includes the entrance music, pyro, outlandish storylines, work-rate, promos, commentating, Dusty finishes, high-spots, and close two-counts. Heck, if I am walking down the street and I see two twelve year olds wrestling, I stop and watch and run the commentary in my head. During normal conversations, I use terms such as, pop, heel, face, mark, kayfabe, and slobberknocker. Blank stares and confused looks is what I get in return. Wrestling is a passion for me and probably you, as well, or you wouldn't be reading this article. Unfortunately, a new trend has been coming over the last few years that I find disturbing. It's criticism of the sport we love.
The internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the wrestling fan. On the one hand, it opens the door and allows us see what goes on behind the curtain. We learn who is getting a "push", where storylines are heading, and who is in the doghouse. It is like getting a backstage pass. On the other hand, we know what is coming and we lose out on the surprise element that wrestling brings. That is the part of wrestling that I love. I really miss it.
I feel that the internet "newsboards" play a large part in the slowly dying wrestling product. If you are claiming that you are a newsboard then print the news, not the rumors or your personal opinions. Use your message boards for that. All we are being fed these days is that, Triple H is bad, too much entertainment not enough wrestling, and Vinnie Mac is the devil walking this Earth. We get it! The point in this column is to address a lot of the criticism. And maybe we can talk about something else, like why we love this sport.
The first criticism is the idea of ratings and buy-rates. Ratings are down across the board for North American and Japanese wrestling and boy, do you ever hear a lot about that. It is amazing how many people have become experts in this field. The first thing that they say is, "It is because the quality wrestling has gone down the crapper." I disagree. There are a lot of reasons why they have gone down. One of them being, that in the late 90's when WWF and WCW were battling it out for supremacy, there was a lot less to choose from. Back then, there was a quarter of the amount of channels at our disposal. Now people have hundreds of more channels to choose from. So, wrestling fanatics will still be watching wrestling while occasional viewers went somewhere else.
The common assumption is that if the quality of wrestling went up, so will the ratings. During the boom of wrestling in the 90's, it wasn't the wrestling that people turned into see; it was the colourful characters and the outrageous storylines. This brought in the occasional fan and it is that person who helped pump up the ratings. The die-hards will always be there. When a match between Benoit and Jericho is getting a "boring" chant just because they are doing some skilled mat-wrestling, it is sad. What they popped for was Austin driving in a beer truck to the ring, the Undertaker "sacrificing" someone, and Mick Foley giving the Rock a "This is your life" in the middle of the ring. Around the water cooler the next day, people talked about how many chair-shots Mankind took, not how technical and how much ring psychology was used. So, when you are watching RAW and SmackDown! and wonder why Snitsky is punting a baby into the audience and there is an elderly lady giving birth to a hand, it is the WWE's way of getting people to talk about and bring interest back to their product. Sex and violence sells.
The second criticism deals with Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I am going to let everyone in a well kept secret in pro-wrestling: VINCE IS AN ASSHOLE! He treats his staff and people under him like they are ants. Case in point: Survivor Series 1997. For people not involved directly in the wrestling business, we saw something weird that Sunday night. In the weeks following, we learned that Vince had lied to Bret and seemed to destroy his career. When the truth came out about the Montreal event, I as many of other fans were pissed at how McMahon could do something like that to a great champion. Now, at this point, we know that Vince is a cold-hearted business and will take it out on the people under him, no one is safe. This is now common knowledge. It is a proven fact that he is a liar and does it time and time again to his advantage. So it should not be surprising to us that he would fire a pregnant women and Matt Hardy. Bottom line, if you work for the WWE or want to work for them in the future, you must understand that Vince will screw you. So consider that a fair warning.
The third criticism of the wrestling community has do with former WWE superstars being fired or let go. All of a sudden they are treated like gods by the anti-mainstream internet wrestling community. I feel really bad about these guys being out of work. But the news sites look forward to having interviews with these cast-offs so they can get the juicy gossip on the evil Triple H and McMahon. What is funny about this situation is that these same sites trashed the wrestlers before they got released. For example, when Goldberg joined the WWE all that was being said about him is how he is a sloppy worker and has no depth. But when he left the WWE, all we heard about is how the WWE never used him properly and they dropped the ball. But if the WWE sucks so much, is it not a good thing these wrestlers can go work somewhere else" Is this not a blessing in disguise" Also, if I had a dollar for every time people who have said they will never watch a WWE product again and then say the same next week and the week after, Vince would be working for me.
My fourth and final point about negative criticism in wrestling is which wrestler deserves a push and who doesn't. In today's wrestling scene, we have one major company and a couple of great ones on the rise. Focusing on the WWE, there is always a large debate about who deserves to be on top and who doesn't. Everyone can make a strong argument for any number of the wrestlers but in reality there are only a certain number of spots on top. I have not always been happy about the decisions they make on who should be a champion. But there are a bunch of reasons why some are chosen (Cena = new young viewers). I don't like it but I accept it.
But if everyone had their way, we would end up with a "catch 22' situation. Everybody wants the WWE championship belts to mean something but we also want "our favorites" to win it. If they always gave the belt to someone who deserves it, then the belt will change hands quite rapidly then it will lose its luster. I know lots of people who hate Triple H's reign but by him doing anything necessary to win and keep the title. It brings a lot prestige to the belt. When Benoit beat him at Wrestlemania XX, the crowd went nuts because nobody thought he would drop the belt. This made Benoit's win extremely emotional to anybody who watched the show. This also happened to Batista when he finally beat JBL. My thoughts on the championship belt, is that it should be given to someone near the end of their careers (like Benoit). It should be a crowning achievement not something you win right away. Where do you go from there" Nowhere but down.
It is very rare that we get any positive stories from these "reporters". This is too bad because there is a ton of good stuff going on in the wrestling world. If you don't like the WWE that is fine, I have nothing but respect for your opinion. But I find it funny that these reporters who loath Triple H write so much about him. One of the main complaints about Triple H is that he goes on and on during his promos. But the same thing can be said the people complaining about him. You don't like him, "I GET IT!" I don't like some of things I see on WWE programming so I go to the bathroom when those segments are on. In the end, I am a wrestling fan who loves the good, the bad, and the ugly this business has to offer. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article.
by Ryan Turner ..
I agree quite a bit with your column. Although I do accuse, complain, and this and that myself, I'm usually in a ranting mood and this would somewhat be my outlet. I don't think everyone deserves a push and I can see the WWE's point on releasing a few wrestlers during their last cut.
Thing is, with a lot of those wrestlers, all they said was that they couldn't figure anything out for them and I could. There may have been other things like backstage politics and those causing trouble backstage, so I'm not going to get into that. I just know that with some wrestlers, they deserve to be treated better than they are and others should begin stepping down (like Ric Flair and Trips are doing in a way or even Hogan.) For example, even though I despise Hulk Hogan, I'm not complaining about his few returns for single matches, because he's actually there bringing short-term ratings to help the product. Those who see Hogan may decide to watch the rest of the show and they see someone like Shelton Benjamin (whom is being mistreated) and decide to watch full-time again.
I think what a lot of people are complaining about the wrestling product is that after ECW arrived, fans were treated to entertainment AND wrestling. Those boring chants, I feel, are due to JR and Lawler (and now Coach) not really selling the product. While Chris Benoit may have Jordan in a hammerlock for five minutes or Angle keeping HBK in a basic leglock for two, it's up to the announcers to continually emphasize on how the technique can hurt their opponent with possible dislocation or break of the bone. It's fairly uncommon you'll see commentators sell a submission or hold unless it's a wrestler's finisher.
Again, I have my opinions and you have yours. It's ultimately up to us for WWE to see whom their target audience are.
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